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What Is a “Nipple Delay,” the Procedure Olivia Munn Had? | Health


THE OSCARS - The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Chris Willard/Disney via Getty Images)OLIVIA MUNN

Olivia Munn has been candid about her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Now, she’s diving more into the procedures she’s had in a heartfelt new interview.

The 43-year-old actress shared with Vogue that she had four surgeries in 10 months, including a full double mastectomy to remove all the tissue in her breasts, a lymph node dissection, reconstructive surgery, and a procedure called a nipple delay, which Angelina Jolie also had, as she previously revealed to the New York Times.

“I knew that they were going to take everything out of my breasts, but that was all on the inside . . . When I realized things were going to change in ways people could see, too, I really realized things were going to be different,” Munn told Vogue of her decision to go through the nipple delay procedure, a step that aims to preserve the nipple.

Munn also opened up about being in medical menopause with the drug Lupron and how the intense fatigue that followed led her to make the decision to have her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries removed.

But the actor’s interview has raised a lot of questions about what a nipple delay is and what it has to do with breast cancer. Here, oncologists and surgeons explain.

What Is a “Nipple Delay?”

A nipple delay is typically used in conjunction with a nipple-sparing mastectomy, a type of mastectomy that attempts to “spare” the nipple to be used during breast reconstruction.

“In the past, we would always remove the nipple and areola with the breast tissue,” says Amy Bremner, MD, a breast surgical oncologist and medical director of breast surgical oncology at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA. “But more recently, if we can try to save the nipple, we will.”

A nipple delay procedure is “a surgical technique that allows a nipple-sparing mastectomy to be done with potentially a greater chance of survival of the nipple areolar complex,” explains Sameer A. Patel, MD, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase Cancer Center. In a traditional nipple-sparing mastectomy, there’s a chance that the nipple and areola will die because of poor blood supply, and you would lose the nipple and areola as a result, he says.

How Does a Nipple Delay Work?

“The delay procedure takes advantage of a known principle and phenomenon in plastic surgery: wWhen one component of blood supply is cut to a structure, alternative blood supply is augmented,” Dr. Patel says.

In other words, the blood supply to the nipple is partially cut off, in the theory that once the nipple stops getting blood from underlying breast tissue, it will begin getting blood from the skin around it. “By cutting around or under the nipple, it increases blood flow to the skin,” Dr. says John Shuck, MD, a plastic surgeon at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “When you do the nipple-sparing mastectomy later, the blood supply is better and there is hopefully a 100% chance of the nipple surviving.”

A nipple delay procedure is usually done anywhere from a week to a month before the actual mastectomy, Dr. Shuck says John Shuck, MD.

What Is Nipple Delay Recovery Like?

Patel says that recovery from a nipple delay is “minimal,” noting that it’s usually done as an outpatient procedure with “no more than a one to two day recovery.”

However, recovery from a mastectomy and reconstruction is longer. “It’s usually four to six weeks, depending on the reconstruction type,” Dr. Bremner says.

Munn didn’t reveal whether her nipple delay was successful, but she seems to be doing well these days. She recently posted on Instagram about her Vogue interview, writing in the caption, “I hope by sharing this, it helps other women who are fighting this terrible disease feel less alone.”

Korin Miller is a writer specializing in general wellness, health, and lifestyle trends. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Self, Health, Forbes, and more.


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